Neighborhoods
Where is the Land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States
Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Patrick Kline, Emmanuel Saez
Quarterly Journal of Economics 129(4): 1553-1623, 2014
June 2014

We use administrative records on the incomes of more than 40 million children and their parents to describe three features of intergenerational mobility in the United States.

First, we characterize the joint distribution of parent and child income at the national level.  The conditional expectation  of  child  income  given  parent  income  is  linear  in  percentile  ranks.   On  average,  a 10 percentile increase in parent income is associated with a 3.4 percentile increase in a child’s income.

Second, intergenerational mobility varies substantially across areas within the U.S. For example, the probability that a child reaches the top quintile of the national income distribution starting from a family in the bottom quintile is 4.4% in Charlotte but 12.9% in San Jose.

Third,  we explore the factors correlated with upward mobility.  High mobility areas have (1) less residential segregation,  (2) less income inequality,  (3) better primary schools,  (4) greater social  capital,  and  (5)  greater  family  stability.   While  our  descriptive  analysis does  not  identify the causal mechanisms that determine upward mobility, the publicly available statistics on intergenerational mobility developed here can facilitate research on such mechanisms.

 

The opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Internal  Revenue  Service  or  the  U.S.  Treasury  Department.  This  work  is  a  component  of  a  larger  project  examining the  effects  of  tax  expenditures  on  the  budget  deficit  and  economic  activity.   All  results  based  on  tax  data  in  this paper  are  constructed  using  statistics  originally  reported  in  the  SOI  Working  Paper  “The  Economic  Impacts  of  Tax Expenditures:   Evidence  from  Spatial  Variation  across  the  U.S.,”  approved  under  IRS  contract  TIRNO-12-P-00374 and presented at the National Tax Association meeting on November 22, 2013. 

Data

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Geography of Mobility: Commuting Zone Preferred Measures of Intergenerational Mobility

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Geography of Mobility: National 100 by 100 Transition Matrix

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Geography of Mobility: National Marginal Income Distributions by Centile

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Geography of Mobility: County Intergenerational Mobility Statistics and Selected Covariates

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Geography of Mobility: Metropolitan Statistical Area Intergenerational Mobility Statistics

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Geography of Mobility: Commuting Zone Intergenerational Mobility Statistics

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Geography of Mobility: Commuting Zone Quintile-Quintile Transition Matrices

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Geography of Mobility: Commuting Zone Income Distributions

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Geography of Mobility: Commuting Zone Characteristics

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Geography of Mobility: Commuting Zone Characteristics - Definitions and Data Sources

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Geography of Mobility: National Mobility Statistics by Parent or Child Income Percentile

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Geography of Mobility: Replication Code and Datasets

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Geography of Mobility: Commuting Zone High-Resolution Map of Upward Mobility Rates

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